LED Headlights: Pros and Cons

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Innovations in lighting mean that more types of headlights are available for car drivers. While you might think of LED lights for homes and businesses, LEDs are increasingly used for car headlights. Learn how LED headlights compare with other types of car headlights to determine what’s right for you.

Advantages of LED Headlights

Halogen, high intensity discharge (HID), and LED are the main types of auto headlights. While halogen headlights are the most commonly used, these lights are inefficient. Most of the energy they consume is burned up, rather than converted into light. As a result, halogen bulbs burn out after 1,000 hours maximum. They may have a low cost, but they need to be replaced frequently.

LED bulbs, in contrast, have a lifespan of 15,000 hours maximum. While they cost more than halogen bulbs, their longer lifespan more than makes up for the added cost.

Both LED and high intensity headlights are brighter than halogen lights. HID lightbulbs are the brightest; however, this doesn’t necessarily make them the best. Their bright white light tends to plunge everything else in deeper shadow, which makes it more difficult to spot, say, a pedestrian crossing the parking lot. In foggy weather, the blue-white light produced by HID lights reflects back at you, causing temporary blindness. The bright light also blinds oncoming cars as far as one mile away, which can make the road less safe.

LED lights are almost as bright as HID lights, but not so bright that they affect your vision or that of oncoming drivers. With LED headlights, you’ll enjoy a strong amount of brightness without compromising your ability to drive safely.

What’s more, LED lights achieve full brightness instantly, unlike high intensity lights, which require a few seconds to achieve full brightness. If you’re braking, the car behind you will see red taillights instantly with LEDs versus a few seconds later with HIDs. This improves reaction time by as much as 30 percent.

Disadvantages of LED Lights

While LED lights have many advantages, there are a few downsides to consider. Historically, LEDs were only available for luxury vehicles with six-figure price tags. LEDs also require a cooling component to keep the diode from melting due to the heat produced by the emitter. This happens because the electrical base on the LED products light — and gets hot — rather than the bulb. The cooling compoment adds to the manufacturing cost.

In recent years, however, LED headlights have come down in price, making them more affordable for all drivers. Given the many advantages of LED bulbs, these downsides are easily outweighed by all the benefits LEDs offer compared with halogen and high intensity headlights.

Change Your Headlights

Replacing a halogen bulb with an LED bulb will help you see more and also save money in the long run. In many states, you can change your headlights from the default installed with your car. However, states regulate aftermarket headlights so any light you use must comply with your state’s law on headlight color and type. Do your homework before you purchase replacement headlights to make sure you won’t get fined.